Mass customization has been the holy grail of fashion e-commerce for the longest time. Meet Kyle Vucko, CEO of Indochino, a men’s fashion company that has cracked the code.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of circumstances?
Kyle Vucko: I grew up in Victoria. It’s a smaller town on the west coast of Canada. I ended up going to the University of Victoria where I met my good friend Heikal Gani, who is my co-founder.
Sramana Mitra: What did you study in university?
Kyle Vucko: I was studying commerce there. They have a specialization in entrepreneurship. I’m also focused on international business.
Sramana Mitra: Did you start the company right after college?
Kyle Vucko: No, I actually started it while I was in college. My co-founder and I both needed suits for a conference and had a tough time buying them. We found a better custom fit suit than what was out there. With that, we started working on the business plan. We found ways to get to Asia while in school. Along the lines, we got some angel investment. We both decided to put our degrees on hold and start the business.
Sramana Mitra: What year are we talking about?
Kyle Vucko: We started working on the idea in 2006. We fleshed out the idea, figured out how to make custom suits from China, and built a website to support all of that. We actually launched the business in September of 2007.
Sramana Mitra: Was the concept fully custom work? You were taking measurements from people, people were selecting patterns.
Kyle Vucko: Yes. When we started doing research, it was clear that we wanted a certain type of style and elements of personalization. That became the genesis for Indochino. Custom fitting also became really important because we saw a lot of guys spending a lot of money on alterations. These things led to the concept of Indochino–great looking clothing I could buy from anywhere. I don’t have to go to a big city to find a style that I can afford. I was a student at that time. The idea of spending $1,000 to get a fashionable suit seemed ridiculous.
Sramana Mitra: At that 2006 to 2007 timeframe when you were noodling with this concept, what did you find about your manufacturing solution? How were you going to fulfill these custom suit orders. Secondly, what about fabric? What choices did you make vis-à-vis where to procure fabric and what kind of fabric?
Kyle Vucko: When we first started, we were both inexperienced. We didn’t know what we were doing. We just knew that we wanted to check great looking products that were affordable. In terms of manufacturing, we did some looking around closer to home. We went to the places where we knew there were a lot of tailors. We knew that there were some in Southeast Asia but we ended up going to China because we had friends who were staying there. So we had free accommodation. What we discovered pretty quickly was that there was a lot of great talent and quality from a manufacturing perspective.
Sramana Mitra: How would the back-end work then? Did you find a bunch of individual tailors or a factory?
Kyle Vucko: We started with home-based tailors because we had no choice. The factories that we initially talked to thought that we were ridiculous. They thought custom clothing wasn’t a real option and something that they couldn’t do. So what we ended up doing was find individual tailors and use them to build our business on. We were small at that time. We had very little volume, so working with individual tailors is actually a great way to go. There’s a lot of flexibility and a lot of learning that happened. Today, we work with multiple factories and we’ve been able to get scale and volume in a way that wasn’t possible before.